Irritated at Children: Matthew 21:12-17

Focus Passage: Matthew 21:12-17 (GW)

12 Jesus went into the temple courtyard and threw out everyone who was buying and selling there. He overturned the moneychangers’ tables and the chairs of those who sold pigeons. 13 He told them, “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you’re turning it into a gathering place for thieves!”

14 Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them.

15 When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were irritated. 16 They said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, I do. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?”

17 He left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

Read Matthew 21:12-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading about events in Jesus’ life on earth, occasionally I am surprised by some of the details that a gospel writer chose to include. It is this way with Matthew’s version of this event.

In our passage, Jesus has just chased all the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple, and He has sat down to heal, teach, and point people to God. But while He is teaching, the religious leaders show up. Matthew tells us what happened, “When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were irritated. They said to him, ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’” (v. 15-16)

In my mind’s eye, the leaders have approached on the sidelines and are watching what is going on. They see Jesus healing people and performing miracles, and they realize that they cannot challenge Jesus on this – especially because the crowd is benefiting from this. But they also notice the children giving praise to Jesus, and in their minds, this was clearly unacceptable. They know they cannot challenge Jesus’ actions, but they can challenge others who were present.

But Jesus has a response for even this challenge: “Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?” The religious leaders did not like children being heard in church, but Jesus says God creates praise in their mouths.

This event brings out an interesting idea: The Pharisees and religious leaders focus on “cannot”, while Jesus focuses on “can”.

Focusing on what is not allowed and unacceptable is a defensive way of thinking. It leads to rules that protect people from breaking the rules, and it always is looking for why people cannot, or should not, do a certain thing.

But Jesus counters the religious leader’s position by focusing on helping people know what they could and should do. Instead of looking for reasons why something was unacceptable, He looked for reasons why an action was okay. Jesus answers the question, “How can we allow this?”

Jesus always appears to be one step ahead of the religious leaders – and that is because looking at the world from a “can” perspective places one on an offensive, forward thinking train of thought. The religious leaders, with their “cannot” perspective, were solidly seeing life as a defensive exercise, and instead of looking at possibilities, they were looking for reasons why things shouldn’t be done.

Jesus didn’t clear out the temple because money was unacceptable there. He cleared out the temple for a can – which was allowing people to more clearly see and worship God!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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